Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana yesterday briefed members of the National Assembly on the progress of the Kingdom’s judicial reforms by highlighting improvements to legal services for out-of-court settlements.
Mr Vong Vathana’s presence at the National Assembly was requested by the Permanent Committee, which wished to question him on how the courts will resolve citizen complaints.
Mr Vong Vathana said since the creation of the Justice Centre Service in 2006, it has provided legal assistance and resolved civil disputes out of court.
“JCS has been providing consultation on the law and helping resolve disputes out of the court system,” he said. “It resulted in the resolution of 2,753 cases last year and the provision of consultative legal assistance in 455 cases involving local people.”
He said many of the cases included marriage disputes, disturbing the peace, land violations, contract violations and property damage.
“JCS has carried out its duty effectively in providing legal services to people and taking part to reduce the lodging of complaints in courts and addressing inundated case files,” he said.
Mr Vong Vathana noted there are 69 JCS centres in Phnom Penh and some provinces and that the ministry is planning to expand its JCS branches to the rest of the Kingdom.
He said the government provided funds through his ministry in order to help impoverished people win cases. He said the government gave $50,000 last year and up to about $295,000 so far this year.
Mr Vong Vathana said Prime Minister Hun Sen recently established a team of lawyers to help those in need and that the ministry worked with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia to provide the team with members.
“Currently, the team has 415 lawyers,” he said. “These lawyers have handled an average of 2,000 each year and provided legal consultation to 300 cases.”
Mr Vong Vathana said his ministry also cooperated with its international partners to train and promote capacity building of judges and prosecutors to deal with human trafficking, law dissemination and law implementation.
“However, we still lack human resources for cases of human trafficking and money laundering,” he said. “That’s why we are working with our partners so they can share with us their experience in preventing those issues.”
“The ministry has also been urging the implementation of laws in order to promote an effective judicial system and the improvement of legal services,” he added. “We have also ensured the independency of the courts.”
Lon Rithy, CPP lawmaker from Kampong Speu province, lauded the Justice Ministry’s efforts in addressing issues, especially the establishment of the JCS.
“Providing legal assistance to local people who do not clearly understand the law is a point that is very important,” Mr Rithy said, adding that Mr Vong Vathana should do more to expose the JCS to local communities. “Sometimes, people don’t want to be in court.”
Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said impunity remains a serious concern in Cambodia.
“In 2019, Cambodia ranked 125 out of 126 countries in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, which measures nations’ adherence to the rule of law.”